Blackfish Generates Another Bombshell: California Assemblyman Introduces Legislation to Phase Out Orca Whale Captivity

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UPDATE: Bloom will hold a press conference today, Friday March 7th 2014, at the Santa Monica Pier at 11:30 am.
Already social media is abuzz about this proposal, including comments by other California lawmakers such as Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D – San Diego): “SeaWorld’s reputation of treating its workers poorly dates back to its opening 50 years ago. It’s about time we continue this conversation about job quality and workplace safety at SeaWorld – whether it involves groundskeepers, concessions workers or killer whale trainers. Recent evidence suggests its record with orcas isn’t much better. I’m looking forward to having an honest conversation about SeaWorld’s business practices and how they can really be an icon that makes San Diego proud.”
Apparently SeaWorld is unable to comment at this time as they have not seen the documents.
Richard Bloom chairs the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Natural Resources and Transportation.  He represents California’s 50th Assembly District, which comprises the communities of Agoura Hills, Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Hollywood, Malibu, Pacifica Palisades, Santa Monica, Topanga, West Hollywood, and West Los Angeles.
Thurdsay Mar 6th. Tomorrow, California Assemblyman Richard Bloom will introduce sweeping legislation designed to transform the discussion of whales and dolphins in captivity from ‘should orcas be kept in captivity’ to ‘since captivity is inhumane for orcas, this is what we propose to do”.
Following the release of the documentary Blackfish – an engaging documentary that disclosed the suffering endured by orca whales in captivity – an increased public awareness is encouraging politicians and lawmakers to submit legislation that will curtail the ability of theme parks to capture or display these large, social animals for entertainment.
Even before the recent awareness raised by the film, states were moving in the direction of eliminating captive display of whales and dolphins. A 1992 law in South Carolina  prohibits“the display of dolphins and porpoises. It was approved after pressure by the South Carolina Humane Society to stop a dolphin park in Myrtle Beach.
The island of Maui, Hawaii passed legislation making it captive-free in 2002.
Recently  New York senator Greg Ball (R), introduced a bill to outlaw the confinement of orcas in that state, and it caused more of a flap over the fact that an aid (now fired) copied and pasted someone else’s work than it did over the legislation itself, for the reason that orcas are not displayed in that state in the first place.

Photo courtesy of

But the legislation introduced in the state of California by Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D) is in another league entirely, because that state is home to SeaWorld San Diego, and Six Flags, Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo. While Six flags is not currently displaying orcas (they sent their last surviving whale, Shouka, to SeaWorld in 2012), under existing laws they could house another orca in their small pool in the future.
SeaWorld, however, has made a fortune off of displaying orcas in circus type shows while claiming to be educational, and their orcas have caused the death of four  human beings. They are unlikely to be happy about this bill.
If the bill passes into law, it will allow for the gradual transition of orca confinement from entertainment purposes to solely keeping orcas captive for research, rescue, and rehabilitation.  It would prevent the breeding of captive animals, and require that those animals maintained in captivity either be released to the wild or be kept in sea pens, which are defined as open water enclosures, anchored to the seafloor and the shoreline. The sea pens must be accessible to the public, but shows and entertainment are not allowed.
Overall, it is a progressive and fair piece of legislation that will give California theme parks ample time to re-invent themselves as the educational and rescue organizations they claim to be.
Bloom’s move on to protect killer whales from the trauma of captivity does not appear to have been lightly undertaken, and seems to reflect the true character of the man.  After a career in family law, he became involved in politics, first in Santa Monica city council, then as mayor of that town for three terms.  He was Chair of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, and in 2002 was appointed to the California Coastal Commission.
Bloom is a dedicated family man.

As a legislator, he has been involved in civic, environmental and animal issues (he is part of a bipartisan group of 26 legislators that make up California’s Animal Protection Caucus.
Bloom was involved in the following, among others:

  • Extending an existing law that prohibits glass beads containing high levels of hazardous heavy metals such as lead and arsenic from being imported into and used in California.
  • Improving 911 Emergency Response
  • Restoring Local Redevelopment Funds
  • Sustainable Communities & Climate Protection Act Funding
  • Helping our Homeless Youth
  • Hazardous Waste Transportation
  • Bobcat Protection Act
  • AB 1301 – Moratorium on Hydraulic Fracturing Imposes a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing operations until appropriate laws and regulations are developed that protect the public health and safety and the natural resources of the state. Like all oil and gas extraction activities, hydraulic fracturing poses significant public health and safety and environmental risks. However, unlike all other oil and gas extraction activities, hydraulic fracturing activities are completely unregulated by the Department of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR). There is no reason why this practice should continue unregulated.

If this bill becomes law, a huge step forward will have been made, and if it doesn’t make it through this time, it is certain to keep the issue alive in the minds of those who consider spending their money at parks that display orcas. The captures are brutal, and it is time to relegate the era of captivity to the history books.

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